One of this week’s readings discusses the process and occasional controversy around enforcing rules within your community, and whether or not you do (or should) enforce them fairly amongst all participants – even when your members self-police the community by turning on the rule-breakers and “trolling the trolls,” so to speak. As a graduate of j-school, a semi-experienced editor of publications and blogs, and generally someone who enjoys debating rules of propriety and how people in charge should police them, I found the post fascinating. The questions asked by the blogger automatically open up SO many more questions, and variances depending on the community type, size, and subject matter.
First, of logistics:
How does one go about policing a community after it reaches a “critical mass” – when it will require more man hours in one day than you have to devote to it? How do you, as a moderator (and a programmer/rule-maker) cover everything, all the time? Can you set automatic filters which red flag posts containing forbidden content? And when you get those red flags, how do you decide where the content falls – on which side of the solid line you have set? For example, at what point is a photo with nudity, considered “art” vs. “adult content”? Or when someone quotes another source, and the quote contains content outside the rule limits, will their entire point be deleted? Will there be an opportunity to edit the post after it’s sent, so the poster can change his comment later, or will he lose involvement in that particular conversation, at that particular time, instantaneously?
When the community reaches its critical mass, how should CM’s decide whom to entrust with part of the moderating responsibilities? One very prominent story I read on Gawker last year talked about “Violentacrez,” a Reddit user and well-known troll, who also voluntarily served as a moderator in many hugely popular Reddit conversation threads. Violentacrez was not a paid employee of Reddit, but he was well-known and well-liked by its paid staff for his good work, even as he stalked the internet and posted pornographic content for 18 hours a day. As the length and scathing tone to the Gawker article suggests, few liked Violentacrez, and many enjoyed watching as his identity was revealed. He was fired from his job specifically for his online behavior, and has since gained attention from law enforcement. Still, Reddit never took responsibility for him or necessarily sided with him – which, I think, creates a problematic model for any other volunteer moderators in a similar situation.
Secondly, consider some questions of message:
Great, you’ve established strict rules, probably for the good of your community as a whole. So, are you, as the CM, prepared to call out your own (probably strongest and most dedicated) community members? How do you chastise or edit any content posted by a rule-breaker whom your own community has turned on, without making a martyr of him/her or enforcing the idea that “trolling the troll” is okay? How do you hold everyone to the rules you set, regardless of the intentions behind any offending content, without driving members away? And how do your enforcement (or lack thereof) and your enforcement methods affect the community’s evolution, mood, communications styles, and eventual profile?
I know I’ve used a lot of question marks in this post, but all the questions are valid concerns that community managers, editors at media outlets, and social media managers must address in ways specific to their individual community settings. So, here’s one more question: How would you (or do you) go about enforcing the rules of content within your community?